What is Greece like in November? Where in Greece would be a good place to escape to this winter? Is Greece a Christmas destination? These are questions we are being asked more frequently, as long-haul and ski resorts appear less and less likely to be on offer as Christmas holiday destinations, and as lockdowns in northern Europe loom. We used to answer that although Greece couldn’t compare with the Maldives or the Bahamas for winter sun, or with St Moritz or Aspen for skiing, winter in Greece could be a wonderfully authentic and rewarding experience, but now we are answering a little differently. Mediterranean tourism was really launched in the late 19th century as intrepid British lords and ladies, romantics, adventurers and consumptives, travelled overland to get away from the drizzle, wind and gloom of their native isles, in search of mild temperatures, sun, temples and good food; to change scenery, boost weak immune systems, heal tubercular lungs and avoid respiratory infections. Full circle? We think so, though there is no longer any need to bring portraits of Queen Victoria for the locals, or as Baedeker recommended, to travel with rubber bathtubs, dragomans and a caravan of mules.
Greece’s superb covid-management means that a large, outdoorsy, country-house Christmas in the South is an easy three hours away for most of Europe, and the comforts of the modern Greek villa experience that await guests would have delighted any British lord, lady, romantic, adventurer or consumptive: large family houses with full staff, heated pools and sun-trap terraces, lush winter vegetation- oranges hanging in the trees, lemon and winter jasmine, fresh, green olive oil still tasting of the tree, vineyards to visit, wines to taste, yoga to practice, cooking to learn, massages to enjoy, fireplaces for cosy evenings, and of course, the walks- goat and thyme-fragrant paths that wind up to little churches with a single candle burning, mountain paths, family-run tavernas serving home-cooking to locals, markets and ruins to visit even if museums are covid-closed.
CRETE is our top tip for this winter- in the far south, it has excellent prospects of warm and plentiful sun, sea-bathing for the hardy, and all year round activities make it a perfect island for a family to explore this Christmas.
Iraklion, too hot in summer for many, is a great choice in winter for day trips to enjoy wonderful food in Venetian piazzas, climb the old city walls, discover Knossos, while Chania’s picture perfect port and mazy little lanes behind are a dream. Our partners at Crete Adventures offer year round activities for all ages, from off-road biking and gentle coast walks to canyoning and gorge-scrambling.
“What very special Christmas traditions do you have on Crete?” I asked Maria in the office who is a proud Cretan, (there is no such thing as a not-proud Cretan to be honest.)
“They all take to the streets and shoot rifles in the air,” chorused the entire office before she could answer, as this is what non -Cretans think that Cretans do when they get excited,bored, angry, happy, married, divorced, give birth (to sons), get home from work, enjoy a good meal, any excuse really. So, for covid- depressed northern European children, that would be huge fun and such a nice alternative to a woke Father Christmas in a socially-distanced grotto…
Contact us to find your country house where you could celebrate the holidays ( with or without rifles,) with friends and family in Cretan style.